Sunday, April 29, 2007

Lucknow - Part 2

Previously on Eternal Ramblings of a Confused Mind...

Sharad and I grabbed a train to Lucknow, saw some pooping peeps, bought some stuff, learned the difference between chicken and Chikan, made friends with an elephant, ate kebab, got chased by a rabid, man-eating monkey and still managed to find time to attend a wedding with the rest of India.

The next morning was spent with Sharad’s brother Harsh, his wife Aruna and their two children, Angel and Darsh. They are incredibly cute children, and extremely naughty in the way that children tend to be when they are cute and they know it. Darsh will flash his sweet smile and puppy eyes as he breaks his sister’s necklace and she smiles very coy and ladylike while she kicks him.

It brought back memories of terrorizing my own sister, ripping the heads of her Barbie’s or kidnapping them and leaving a ransom note which would read something like:

“If you ever want to see Quick Tan Malibu Barbie alive again, leave 2 snickers bars behind the Fichus tree in the living room by 2pm.

P.S. If you tell mom I will flush her down the toilet and she will drown and you will never see her again.”

Or that old trick that older siblings have played on younger ones ever since siblings were invented so many years ago. If my sister managed to come across a dollar bill, I would make her the irresistible trade of 10 whole pennies for her one little piece of paper or perhaps convince her to exchange her real one for Monopoly money. If that didn’t work, I would remove Barbie’s head and then sell it back to her. Some people call it mean, I call it tough love. Ya gotta hit ‘em where it hurts and I used to hit my sister right smack in her Barbies. It worked every time.

When Darsh is older I’ll give him my top 10 tips for making his sister’s life absolutely miserable. But for now, he seems to be doing a darn good job and I have to say, it made me a bit misty eyed, longing for the good old days of innocent childhood terrorism.

In between the kicks and the taunts and teases and giggles, Aruna busied herself making, what I consider to be the best paranthas I have had to date and the next time I go visit them, I want her to teach me how to make them. I guess I was looking a bit too thin for her liking as they kept coming by the buckets and even when I thought I would burst, I still forced down a couple more. I have only been to a few people’s homes in India but each time I was not made to feel like a guest as much as I was made to feel like a member of the family. From Amit’s family in Gwalior where I intruded on his wedding at the last minute to Sharad’s family, I have never felt anything but completely welcome. I can imagine it must be somewhat odd to have a westerner in the home. We are known for our over indulgences, large homes, latest and greatest of absolutely everything, basic luxury and unfortunately also known as being a being snobbish and elitist. I heard from Sharad that his family was a bit concerned if I would feel comfortable in their home. It can’t be an easy thing inviting someone in they have never met, not having a clue if I was going to be relaxed or looking around making all sorts of judgments on things. But for the record, I felt more than comfortable and am looking forward to another visit with his brother and family.

The morning was cut short and soon we were feeling the pressure of time and we wanted to do just a bit of sightseeing. Sharad wanted to show me the Bara Imambara, a breathtaking structure in the center of the city. It is one of those places that one could easily spend a day just taking in all the amazing details. We had 30 minutes, and were carrying our luggage with us. I have never been able to pack light, and even for one night, I had enough supplies to start my own little emporium should the urge have struck. The part I found most beautiful in the little time we were there, was the Asfi mosque that dominates the whole complex. It is a very important place to Shiite Muslims, who gather there to commemorate Muharram.

I do intend to go back and give the place the attention it deserves as well as spending some time getting lost in the labyrinth. The labyrinth has 489 identical doorways, some leading in circles, some going to dead ends and supposedly, but I have not been in so I can’t say for sure, some leading to sheer drops. I was told that enemies were led into the labyrinth and then they would kill them. The labyrinth itself was an unintentional development, created to make give the building strength and support the structure as it was built on marshy lands.

So we ran around the complex, looking here and there and snapping pictures of anything and everything, then it was off to find a rickshaw to get us to the train station and 5 ½ hours later, we were back in Delhi, pushing and shoving our way through the tourists and eunuchs to get out of the station and into the rickshaw home.

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